The Oak Tree Racing Association Board of Directors
In 1968, three distinguished California racing figures—Clement L. Hirsch, Louis R. Rowan and Dr. Jack Robbins—met with then Santa Anita Park president Robert P. Strub and general manager Fred Ryan with a proposal to offer horsemen an opportunity for first-class racing between the end of the Del Mar season and the opening of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting. The Southern California racing calendar was empty then, except for the brief Pomona fair circuit meeting.
It was to be a meeting run for horsemen, by horsemen. The Santa Anita management agreed to an autumn racing season for 1969, and thus the Oak Tree Racing Association was in business. The first 20-day meeting did well in attendance and handle, and racing under the Oak Tree banner has grown from there, with profits designated primarily for worthy racing industry projects.
Clement Hirsh, a successful Thoroughbred owner and breeder, was Oak Tree’s first and only president until his death on March 24, 2000. He was succeeded by another Oak Tree founder, Jack Robbins. Not only one of the most respected practitioners of equine veterinary medicine, Robbins also has been an owner and a manager of training, breeding and equine surgical facilities.
Robbins and his wife Maggie campaigned Strub Stakes winners Nostalgia’s Star and Most Host, plus stakes winners Honeys Gem, Smasher, Casseleria and Guilton Madero. Champion runners who received his veterinary care included John Henry, Majestic Prince, Ancient Title and Native Diver.
Hirsch was instrumental in bringing the Breeders’ Cup to Santa Anita during the Oak Tree meetings of 1986 and 1993, and Robbins was at the helm for the record-breaking 2003 presentation of the renamed Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.
The two-day 2008 Breeders’ Cup brought the 40th annual Oak Tree Racing Association to a high point on Oct. 24 and 25, 2008. Several “firsts” were involved as the event produced an on-track attendance of 31,257 on Friday and 51,331 on Saturday.
Santa Anita Park’s new Pro-Ride main track provided the first Breeders’ Cup competition on a synthetic surface. The Friday card was strictly for fillies and mares for an initial time, as it became the first West Coast venue to stage the two-day format. Three new races were added for this renewal.
Oak Tree presents its 41st racing season in 2009. Throughout the years, it has remained dedicated to channeling its profits to research, development and breeding, plus other worthy causes, many in the San Gabriel Valley.
The Association is a not-for-profit, non-dividendpaying group of active California owners and breeders whose directors serve without compensation as Members of the Corporation. Its lease agreement with Los Angeles Turf Club, operator of Santa Anita Park, was extended in 2008 to continue through 2016.
During its 40 years of dedication to the cause of “Horsemen Helping Horsemen,” Oak Tree has contributed more than $26 million to projects benefiting the racing industry.
The largest grants for industry support have included more than $4.6 million in support of projects at the University of California, Davis, Center for Equine Health and Performance. Oak Tree also gives to the Grayson-Jockey Club Foundation, American Horse Council, Race Track Chaplaincy and Winners Foundation, which assists people in horse racing combat substance abuse.
Other racing-related beneficiaries have included Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly, Pomona, Equine Research Center, Washington State University, the California Horse Racing Board, Southern California Equine Foundation and several retired horse facilities.
At Santa Anita, horsemen continue to benefit from Oak Tree projects remodeling the stable cafeteria, building and renovating a backstretch recreation facility, and funding of English classes for backstretch workers.
Community organizations benefiting from Oak Tree grants include American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, Arcadia Mounted Police Unit, California Philharmonic, Fairplex Child Development Foundation, Hillsides Home for Children, Holy Angels School, Methodist Hospital Foundation and Panda Charitable Foundation